A League of Their Own
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 01:01
Sass Master, Fairy, Ginger Princess, Baloney, Slash, Bear Claw, Femur, Killer, Great Scott.
Aspiring midwife, 90-pound winger, twin, JFK worshipper, Hermione look-alike, sorority sister, the ultimate cat lady and she who will only be caught out of heels on the rugby pitch.
Representing 20 states, we are a diverse group of individuals who, like many other campus organizations, find our differences to be our greatest strength.
Some of us were dragged to the first practices by our roommates. Some of us were naturally drawn to the sport. Some of us were looking to fill the voids left by a departure from high school athletics. Some of us joined on a whim. Others had not played organized sports since peewee soccer.
Regardless of athletic background, there was a position for us on the team. One of the greatest aspects of rugby is that it offers positions for all types of athletes. There’s no one rugby build. No one is ever too tall, too short, too petite or too built to play rugby. There is a use for every body on the pitch. The short but solid hooker, held up by the powerhouse props, propelled forward in the scrum by the towering locks. The scrappy and strategic scrumhalf passes off as the flyhalf races forward, and the glamorous centers rush the ball down the pitch, finding holes in the defensive line, until the smooth hit brings them down. But they know that this 15-person team plays as one. And a teammate will be there to push forward.
Nearly every rookie comes to the field without having ever even touched a rugby ball. They ask — or often their parents ask, hesitantly over the phone — “Rugby is a pretty violent sport, isn’t it? Aren’t there a lot of injuries?” No, we don’t wear helmets or pads, but that is not because all ruggers are insane — well, maybe we are, but that is an entirely different point. We don’t wear bulky protective gear because when you merely have canvas shorts, a jersey and a mouth guard to protect you, you play smart. Pads and helmets give football players a sense of invincibility. We realize our vulnerability. We use our bodies. We tackle, ruck, scrum and maul with a sense of purpose — with intention. We do not throw our bodies around. We focus on form. Any potential pain is heavily drowned in adrenaline. And there is nothing more gratifying than an exceptional, clean tackle.
Joining the team gave us a home at Georgetown. As underclassmen, we developed close relationships with the upperclassmen on the team. They treated us as equals, as friends — even though we secretly worshipped them and contemplated whether we could ever be as impressive and hardcore as them. They accepted us, immediately and unconditionally. Since New Student Orientation and freshman year, friends have come and gone throughout our time at Georgetown, but our rugby family has remained constant. And the relationships we’ve developed amongst ourselves do not only last the four years we are on the Hilltop. Even after graduation, our teammates remain close with our extensive alumnae network.
That family is universal. Whether settling in a new city after graduation or studying abroad in unfamiliar territory, our current players and alumnae have found a community, a family and a home miles away from home by joining a local rugby team.
That is inevitable because trust is essential to rugby. When you pick up that ball, you know that your teammates are right there behind you, ready to protect you, to support you, to cheer you on. And you know that, immediately after, they’ll be there to offer you a beer, a hand, a couch or a shoulder.
Kathleen Kelley is a junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Katie Farias is a senior in the College. They are both members of the Georgetown University Women’s Rugby Football Club team.